Toddler was in 'serious condition,' says paramedic in James Turpin manslaughter trial

·5 min read
Two-year-old Kennedy Corrigan suffered a massive brain injury on April 2, 2004, and died a week later at the IWK Hospital in Halifax. (Court exhibit - image credit)
Two-year-old Kennedy Corrigan suffered a massive brain injury on April 2, 2004, and died a week later at the IWK Hospital in Halifax. (Court exhibit - image credit)

In his report, paramedic David Burtt wrote two-year-old Kennedy Corrigan's body was dry when he arrived at her home in Central Blissville for an emergency call 17 years ago.

Then a few days later, the emergency medical technician told police in a written statement her hair might've been damp, but he's not sure.

Burtt testified in the manslaughter trial of James Turpin, who is accused in the toddler's death. Turpin, who has already been found guilty once for Kennedy's death and successfully appealed the verdict, has claimed since 2004 the toddler died after falling and hitting her head in the bathtub.

The toddler died April 2, 2004, after suffering a severe brain injury at her home in Central Blissville, about 30 kilometres southeast of Fredericton.

"Our number one priority is treating the patient … we're in there to do our job," Burtt testified Tuesday. "We're not investigators."

Burtt was working for the Queen-Sunbury West Ambulance Service at the time of the incident.

When he arrived at Kennedy's home just before 9:30 a.m. that day, he noticed the toddler lying on a chair in nothing but her underwear.

The toddler wasn't crying, which Burtt said was a bad sign.

"A lot of times you're hoping to see a child crying and upset," Burtt said.

He remembers checking her level of consciousness. She was moving her arms and clenching her teeth. But she was breathing less than normal — about eight times per minute compared to a typical 16 to 24 breaths per minute.

"The patient was in serious condition."

He told the court Turpin rode in the ambulance with them to the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton. Burtt said Turpin was upset and crying when they were examining Kennedy.

'Did he do it or was it an accident?'

Turpin's defence lawyer questioned contradictory evidence provided by the Crown's first witnesses on Tuesday.

Ian Doyle, who testified by video from Toronto on Tuesday morning, said that after Kennedy's injury, he felt suspicious of Turpin, whom he met through Ali Corrigan, his wife at the time and a cousin of Connie Corrigan, Kennedy's mother. Doyle, the two cousins and Kennedy all lived in the same house.

"Why was she left unattended or if she was left unattended," the 46-year-old said he wondered. "Did he do it or was it an accident? How come she was hurt under your care at the time?"

But defence lawyer Nathan Gorham read back statements Doyle made to police in April 2004, in which he described Turpin as a good person who helped around the house. If Turpin had been abusive toward Kennedy or his own three-year-old daughter, Doyle would have known about it from family.

"He treated his daughter well, he was soft-spoken," Doyle said on Tuesday. "All I observed was him and his daughter."

Gorham told Doyle he was actually defending Turpin at the time of his police interview 17 years ago.

"I don't think I was defending," he said. "It was a matter of fact."

Turpin, who was dating Connie Corrigan at the time Kennedy died, had lived for about three weeks in the Doyle and Corrigan house.

Turpin, who was from Charlo, and Connie Corrigan wanted to see if their two daughters would get along with each other.

Turpin gave Doyle 'a bad feeling'

During Tuesday's testimony, Doyle said he didn't have a good feeling about Turpin when he was living in the house. He didn't like hearing from Turpin that he smoked marijuana on the property and did steroids.

Gorham asked why Doyle didn't mention these concerns in his initial statements to police in 2004 or say that he didn't want Turpin living in the house.

"When police questioned me, I never thought about the steroids," Doyle said.

A jury found James Turpin guilty of second-degree murder following a three-week trial in 2016. After an appeal in 2019, a new trial was ordered. This time he's on trial for manslaughter.
A jury found James Turpin guilty of second-degree murder following a three-week trial in 2016. After an appeal in 2019, a new trial was ordered. This time he's on trial for manslaughter.(CBC News)

Doyle also said he wanted to give Turpin a chance because he was Corrigan's boyfriend.

Gorham continued to press Doyle, reading the 2004 statement where police specifically ask if Turpin was using illicit drugs. Doyle said no.

Gorham also noted Doyle didn't mention the possibility of any anger problems, which can be a side-effect of steroids.

"All of that stuff, wasn't concrete enough to say that," Doyle said. "So I didn't say that."

Doyle didn't mention the illicit drugs to police until 2015.

Turpin says he's sorry

When Doyle first heard Kennedy had been injured in April 2004, he said, he rushed from his job at CFB Gagetown to the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton.

He remembers seeing James Turpin crying. His partner Ali and Kennedy's mother, Connie Corrigan, were in tears outside the building.

"He [Turpin] came over and hugged me," said Doyle. "He was mumbling he was sorry. He mentioned something about her falling out of the tub."

Doyle said Turpin wasn't speaking in complete sentences at the time.

Gorham once again read Doyle's 2004 statement back to the court. Doyle said in the statement that he couldn't remember what Turpin said at the time.

When questioned about the bathtub on Tuesday, Doyle agreed the tub was slippery if a mat wasn't put down.

"If the mat wasn't put down properly it would've been slippery," Doyle said.

This is the second time Turpin has been tried for Kennedy's death. He wasn't charged until 2015, when he was living in Charlo. In 2016, Turpin was found guilty of second-degree murder but three years later, he successfully appealed his conviction.

The Court of Appeal found there wasn't enough evidence of murder but ordered a new trial on the lesser charge of manslaughter.